On Thursday, the last of our bills received its public hearing. Committees will finish public hearings next week and all day floor debate will begin on Monday, March 7th. The bill, LB 1058, was drafted after conversations with Tobacco Free Sarpy/Cass, our tobacco prevention coalition. Tobacco Free Sarpy/Cass, with the help of area law enforcement including Bellevue and La Vista Police and Sarpy County Sheriff, conduct tobacco compliance checks with high school students. These compliance checks ensure that retailers do not sell tobacco products to minors.
Nebraska’s retail violation rate is low, with violations nearly half of what is found in other states. Almost all of our retailers who sell tobacco products are doing their part to ensure tobacco does not get into the hands of minors. LB 1058 ensures that there is a clear and consistent process known to coalitions and retail establishments when these compliance checks are conducted.
Special thanks to Sarpy Sheriff Deputy Greg London, Officer Carl Grubb of Bellevue Police, LaVista Police Chief Bob Lausten and Alex Brown with Tobacco Free Sarpy for traveling to Lincoln to testify in support of the bill.
Crawford Bills on Economic Development, Family Caregiving, and Home Health Advance
On Tuesday, several of my bills advanced to the second round of debate, called Select File. One was an economic development bill that allows municipalities to know when companies seeking local economic development incentives are also seeking state incentives that might then turn around an impact local option sales tax revenues for the city (LB 1059). This bill advanced as part of an Urban Affairs LB 840 package.
LB 849, the Assisting Caregiver Transitions Act, was one of these bills. As mentioned in a previous update, LB 849 ensures family caregivers have the tools they need when their loved ones leave the hospital, by ensuring that, if a patient chooses, the family caregiver can be present to discuss the patient’s discharge plan and any aftercare instructions. By more fully involving family caregivers in the discharge process, patients are able to stay safe, healthy and in their homes as long as possible, avoiding hospital readmissions and postponing costly long-term care.
Another bill, LB 869, also advanced to Select File Tuesday as part of the same legislative package. I brought LB 869 at the request of the Department of Health and Human Services. LB 869 brings our state laws into compliance with new federal regulations and ensures some of our most vulnerable Nebraskans–home health consumers–are protected from fraud and abuse. Under the bill, health care licensees who provide care or assistance in a home health setting will need to submit fingerprints as part of an FBI background check. This is important, not only to bring Nebraska into compliance with federal law, but also to protect patients. The patients these providers serve tend to be the most vulnerable and at greatest risk for fraud and abuse since it is often difficult for homebound patients to report fraud when it puts at risk the care that they need to stay in their homes.
Bill to Provide More Normalcy for Foster Youth Advances
On Monday, the Legislature voted 37-0 to advance LB 746 to Select File. LB 746 was first heard in the Health and Human Services Committee, which is one of my committees. LB 746 ensures greater normalcy for foster youth, making it easier for them to participate in sports, clubs and other extra curricular activities. In other words, LB 746 helps foster kids be kids.
In my time in the Legislature, I’ve heard what a difference school activities can make for foster youth. We know how important school activities are for all of our kids, and they can be even more critical for foster youth who need adult mentors, connections with other kids, and self-confidence. I was struck this fall when I met with two former foster who are now attorneys that both told stories about how a school activity was the lifeline that helped them see that they could learn and succeed.
Several foster youth also shared with me how isolating it felt to be left out of what for most kids are normal friend activities because of foster care rules like those requiring background checks before a sleep over. They dreaded being asked why they could not come to a birthday party or a field trip and so it was easier to just not make close friends or get involved. This isolation can be dangerous and could lead youth to run away, putting them at greater risk for involvement in sex trafficking. Sadly, in a recent raid across 70 U.S. cities, authorities found that 60% of the sex trafficking victims were former foster youth.
Allowing foster youth access to the same sort of activities our other Nebraskan children get to participate in every day is important and more than that, it is the right thing to do. I was happy to support LB 746 and am grateful to Senator Campbell for selecting the bill as her personal priority bill this session.
Urban Affairs Priority Bills Advance
Debate on priority bills was in full swing this week, with both of the Urban Affairs Committee’s priority bills advancing from General File on Tuesday.
The first committee priority bill, LB 1059, is a package bill that amends the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act (commonly referred to as LB 840), which allows municipalities to collect and appropriate local tax dollars for economic development purposes, if approved by local voters. The bill requires notice by businesses seeking local incentives if that same business is also seeking state tax incentives, and also includes changes originally appearing in LB 808 and LB 860 that were recommended by stakeholders during the Urban Affairs Committee’s LR 155 interim study that took a comprehensive look at Nebraska’s municipal economic development tools.
The second committee priority bill, LB 704, is a technical bill designed as a “clean-up” of various statutes that deal with the adoption of local building codes. To improve citizen access and transparency, this bill also requires that political subdivisions keep a copy of their current building code available for use and examination by the public.
In addition to the two committee priority bills, two other bills that were heard by the Urban Affairs Committee this session have been prioritized by individual senators. The Legislature will likely be taking up both bills in the coming weeks.
Upcoming Meetings on Mass Transit in Sarpy County
Residents of Sarpy County are invited to attend one of three public meetings to share opinions on long-range transportation needs in the area. The meetings are being hosted by the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency, or MAPA, which is working on a study to examine transit services for Sarpy County. I encourage you to attend to make your views known on what the future of mass transit should be in Sarpy County.
The first meeting will be held on Monday, February 29th at the La Vista Public Library, 9110 Giles Road, from 10:30 a.m. to noon.
The second meeting will be held on Monday, March 7th at the Bellevue Public Schools Support Center building, 2820 Arboretum Drive, from 5 to 7 p.m.
The third meeting will be held on Thursday, March 31st in Gretna at The Beanery, 11849 S. 216th Street, from 9 to 11 a.m.
Recess Day Activities
Friday was a recess day from the Legislature. Early in the morning I attended a Sarpy Chamber legislative coffee townhall with Senator Smith, Senator Kintner, and Senator Garrett at Black Hills Energy. It was good to have a chance to give an update on important issues like the levee funding, the learning community, and our priority bills. Most of the rest of the day was spent helping out the Bellevue Public Safety Foundation with a First Responders Appreciation Day. Thanks to Luigi’s Italian Bar and Grill for donating fabulous food, Wake Robin K-Kids for making special treats for the police and fire fighters, Neighborhood Watch and Night Out groups and B&B Classic Dogs for wonderful desserts, the Bellevue Chamber and Bellevue Economic Enhancement Fund for goodie bags and ice cream treats, Bellevue Medical Center for goodies for the bags, and Councilwoman Carol Blood for special bags for the K-9 crew.
All my best,